Man pleads guilty in Wyatt escape, gun thefts, attempted robberies

Photo Courtesy: Massachusetts State Police

BOSTON (WPRI) — A former Army Reservist pleaded guilty Monday to stealing guns from a Worcester armory, escaping from federal prison in Central Falls and attempting to rob two banks before he was captured.

According to federal prosecutors, James Morales gave a statement admitting his role in the Nov. 2015 robbery of six machine guns and 10 handguns from the Lincoln Stoddard United States Army Reserve Center.

Morales, 35, of Cambridge, was captured in Long Island three days after the robbery.

In April 2016, Morales was sentenced to 57 months at the Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls. On Dec. 31 of that year, he broke out of the prison by climbing a basketball hoop, cutting his way through a fence covering the recreation area, climbing onto the facility’s roof and shimmying down the building.

His escape went unnoticed for several hours and resulted in a multi-state manhunt that came to an end five days later in Somerville, Mass. While Morales was on the run, police said he attempted to rob a Bank of America branch in Cambridge and a Citizens Bank in Somerville but came up empty both times.

Prosecutors said Morales on Monday pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted bank robbery and one count each of being a felon in possession of a firearm, possession of a machine gun, possession of stolen firearms, theft of government property, escape, and conspiracy to possess, store, conceal and sell stolen weapons. He’s scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 8, 2018.

All of the machine guns have since been recovered, according to prosecutors, while five of the handguns were not. The FBI is offering a reward for information leading to their recovery. Anyone with information should contact the FBI immediately at (857) 386-2000.